Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pictures of 2008: Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

In October, Fosco and Oz hopped a quick flight up the coast to spend a weekend in Seattle with Fosco's good friend Todd. We cheered for Notre Dame against Washington at the absolutely gorgeous Husky Stadium.

The view is also pretty nice from Seattle's futuristic Sky Needle. That's part of the Seattle skyline with semi-dormant volcano Mt. Rainier barely visible in the distance.

Fosco had never been to Seattle and he was pretty impressed with the city. Next visit, he's going to drag Oz on a Frasier Crane walking tour.

God Is Dead. Drink Sierra Mist.

While Fosco is indeed an atheist, he's not too big on the recent trend of public advertisements for atheism. Here is the new bus campaign in England:

I guess I just find it hard to believe that a person's religious belief will be adequately shaken enough by such glibness to produce any change. For most people in society (i.e., those of us raised in a religious tradition of some sort), atheism tends to be the fruit of a long scholarly path and a period of serious intellectual honesty, not something that one adopts because of a bus ad.

Now if the ads were aimed more at questioning the role of religion in public discourse, I think they might be more useful and have more clear effects. Something like: "God Shouldn't Be Our Prime Minister" or "Jesus and I Should Stay Out of Your Personal Life" (oh dear, those are terrible, aren't they?). I think people's attitudes about what is appropriate in public discourse are more easily swayed, mainly because I think the norms of appropriate public discourse are currently in transition.

That being said, I do like the part about "Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life." That's good advice for atheists and nonatheists alike.

Pictures of 2008: Roy's Hawaiian Fusion

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

This fall, Fosco and Oz went for a romantic dinner to remind Oz of his homeland of the Sandwich Islands. There is an outpost in San Francisco of Roy's, the original Hawaiian fusion restaurant.

Roy's serves some thrilling seafood and it was a wonderful evening. We even saw a past winner of Project Runway at the bar! Sadly, neither Fosco nor Oz brought a camera to dinner that night. However, Fosco has found online some gorgeous pix of his favorite menu items. Like the Ahi Poketini:

The Misoyaki Butterfish lives up to its name: soft and buttery (is there anything bad that is named after butter?).

And dessert is Roy's famous molten chocolate souffle:

Don't you wish Fosco's pictures of food looked this good?

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Blagodyssey

On the same day that Fosco admitted his friend crush on Anne Hathaway, he has a more embarrassing admission to make: he's really turned into a fan of CRAZIEST GUV EVER, Rod Blagojevich. I would say that this guy is either COMPLETELY BRATZDOLL INSANE or that he has the largest, densest cojones in the Western world--except that those two things aren't mutually exclusive. All I know is that I want him to stick around as long as possible and to talk to the media as much as he can. Seriously. I mean did you see today's presser?

I can't decide which part I like better:
  • His reference to "the Golden Rule" as the way to run government.
  • The parade of handicapped and sick Illinoisians behind him.
  • The part where he claims he's being impeached because he has tried too hard to help the poor and helpless.
Oh wait: obviously my favorite part was the poem! Yes, that's right, Rod Blagojevich concluded his press conference by reciting part of a Tennyson poem. I think it's worth considering it here. This is "Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson:
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,--
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me--
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

While Blago only quotes the final six lines of the poem, he also claims to have memorized it in its entirety and so I think it is appropriate to consider what Blago is trying to say by quoting it.

This poem begins in a valedictory mood as the poetic speaker, the aged Ulysses (Odysseus), considers the small amount of life that remains for him. He cannot be satisfied by his work as an "idle king"; rather, he still yearns for travel ("I cannot rest from travel: I will drink / Life to the lees"). In line twelve, Tennyson provides throws a phrase ("hungry heart") forward into the future to be caught by Bruce Springsteen. Ulysses remembers his adventures and chafes against spending an old age of inaction: "How dull it is to pause, to make an end, / To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!" Such inaction is "vile"; rather, Ulysses's preference is "To follow knowledge like a sinking star, / Beyond the utmost bound of human thought."

The second stanza is a meditation on his son Telemachus. Ulysses praises (although somewhat faintly) Telemachus's abilities in everyday governance; Telemachus will govern well. However, Ulysses's interests go beyond these: "He works his work, I mine."

In the third stanza, Ulysses conjures his sailors and his ship. He commands that, despite the nearness of death, "something ere the end, / Some work of noble note, may yet be done." He calls his crew to him: "Come, my friends, / 'T is not too late to seek a newer world." The outcome of the journey is uncertain, they will either "touch the Happy Isles" or "the gulfs will wash us down." The final six lines are defiant: while old age has weakened the warriors, they retain the "will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

So what is Blago doing here? I think it's actually a pretty brilliant move to insert himself into this poem's narrative. By referencing this poem, he recognizes that he will not remain governor for much longer--his time, as Ulysses's, is growing short. However, in the time that remains, Blago does not intend to "rest unburnish'd"; rather, he will "shine in use" by doing as much as he can (even engaging in battle if necessary). In a more colloquial sense, he's going to "go down swinging." At the same time, this poem manages to make it seem as if Blago's failures at governance are those of someone who is above such an everyday pursuit. Ulysses is better than his kingly duty to "mete and dole / Unequal laws unto a savage race"; and so is Blago. He is hero stuck in the job of a bureaucrat. And so, by placing himself inside this poem, Blago has rewritten the narrative of his final days in office. Ulysses feels no shame; rather, it is those who lack his spirit and will who should be ashamed. Ulysses and Blago are heroes and they plan to go out with a bang.

Of course, I doubt anyone is going to buy this (except maybe, for a few brief emotional moments, Fosco). But isn't it thrilling? Blago is pulling out all the stops here, trying to use language's considerable powers to change his situation. And even if it's not working, it's fascinating. I really can't help rooting (just a little) for this guy.

Your Santa Cruz Postcard

Warmish (low 60s) and sunny here today. Down at the beach, tide was really low, revealing some rocks that are underwater most of the year. Either this means a tsunami is coming or it means a tsunami is not coming.

Say, readers, what's the weather like where you are?

Class(less) Bias

If you keep up with Sarah Palin news (and why wouldn't you? Everyone else does.), you know that she recently suggested that the media was harder on her than they are currently being on Caroline Kennedy and that this difference is due to a "class issue." I think Palin may be right, in a way. And so I actually want to take this question of a "class issue" seriously for a few minutes.

Let's just dismiss Palin's point about the media going easy on Caroline Kennedy. As Jason Linkins notes, this isn't true ("you know?"). From Kennedy's grammatical tics to questions about her lack of qualifications, the media has been on it all along. So let's just ignore Caroline Kennedy and consider Sarah Palin in isolation: did she have such a tumultuous tenure in the national spotlight because of her class? Yes, but maybe not in the obvious sense of that word.

Sarah Palin's problem is indeed a "class issue": she just doesn't have any. Seriously, is there any way to call her "classy"? Is she particularly excellent in any way? Is she particularly meritorious? Is she dignified? Elegant? She can't express a coherent thought in English. She barely graduated from college (from somewhere. And with a degree in... something). Her political experience derives from governing fewer people than live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her immediate and extended family brings to mind nothing so much as a Spears family reunion.

But you know what's funny about Palin's complaints on this issue? She likes it that way. Her entire public image is explicitly based on her lack of class. What's strange is that she expects us to take her seriously despite this. I don't see any reason why we ought to pretend that intelligence, education, and dignity are irrelevant to holding national office (Alaska can can elect whoever it wants within its own borders). But that's a question that voters can settle (and hey, they did). It isn't the media's fault that America found Palin to be a confidently undereducated idiot (the most dangerous kind) and decided that's a bad thing. Thank goodness there are still enough people in this country who want to be governed by someone smarter than average.

As for Caroline Kennedy--even if she gets the Senate appointment, she will have to run again in two years. We'll see then how voters feel about her education, her speaking skills, and her qualifications. That's the kind of class that's important, both to voters and to the media. As for Governor MooseMunch? Well, maybe she could start by trying to read a book.

Happy Birthday, Muir Woods

Today is the one hundred and first anniversary of the establishment of Muir Woods National Monument in Marin County, California. Fosco has visited three times since moving to California, and it's just as beautiful as everyone says it is.

It's also the place where Fosco saw his first real banana slug:

Did you know that Muir Woods is named after British actor Roger Muir, who is well-known for his portrayal of James Bond? It's true.

Pictures of 2008: Frigid Baseball

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

Last August (note the month), Fosco and Oz went to a Giants home game at AT&T Park in San Francisco. It's a really nice park (as you've probably seen on TV) with lots of amusements and concessions (including garlic fries! Yum!). However, it is also right on the SF Bay and, when you're sitting in the bleachers on a foggy night it gets COLD. Like really cold. Fosco had a coat and a scarf and still froze.

One neat thing: the Giants were playing the Dodgers that night, who had recently traded for dreadlocked All-Star Manny Ramirez (a trade that would propel them into the second round of the playoffs). Our bleacher seats were in Left Field, so we got a nice view of Manny:

By the fifth inning, we were popsicles (in August!) and so we left (as if we care about the Giants). This was a view of the ballpark as we walked to our car (in the howling wind):

You can even tell from behind that Fosco is freezing. In August!

Be My Friend, Anne Hathaway?

Fosco isn't generally that interested in celebrities, unless they are impossibly attractive or do something incomparably stupid. Oh, and he does occasionally enjoy a good episode of "Hey Paula." But he rarely gets the feeling that he would like to hang out with or be friends with any celebrity. And yet, Fosco has been getting this huge friend crush lately for Miss Anne Hathaway. Like so much so that he's starting to think that it might be fun to get stuck next to her on a plane sometime (an idea he got from this story).

Here--I'm just going to say it... I think Anne Hathaway is really cool.

Why is Anne Hathaway so cool? Some reasons:

  • She was like a teen role model (in the effortlessly enchanting Princess Diaries movies) who then graduated to showing her ample bosom and serious acting skills in the Brokeback. Not that many actresses have successfully made that transition (case in point). I think it would be fun to go dress shopping with her and joke about her boobs.
  • She's had some bad luck with men, but she's very funny about it. Her previous boyfriend seems to have dropped the Pope's name to defraud investors (which seems like a bad idea if you are at all concerned about the ultimate destination of your immortal soul). But Anne is very funny about the whole thing, responding to Ellen's recent attempt to fix her up:
    "At this point I would just like him to be law abiding."
    That's comedy gold, Anne.
  • She's really smart. And I don't just mean "Hollywood smart" or "actor smart"--you can aspire to either of those categories just by wearing glasses. No, Anne went to a reputable Seven Sisters college (although not the best one) and also NYU. She was an English and Women's Studies major (two of Fosco's faves). And recently, she used the phrase "process metaphysics" during an award acceptance speech. I don't want to get my hopes up too much, but I'm starting to suspect that Anne and I could have a meaningful conversation about literature.
  • She's politically engaged, especially when it comes to gay rights. On a red carpet, she recently called out Obama about the Rick Warren thing. And in an interview to promote her upcoming Bridezilla movie, Anne identified her best wedding memory as her brother's same-sex wedding. (In the same interview, she also names one of Fosco's favorite songs, "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as a must-play song for her own wedding.)
  • Oh, and the best part about her political engagement? She puts her money where her mouth is. As Fosco documented earlier, Anne donated $10,000 to fight Prop 8 (which is a lot of money, really).
Now Anne, I'm sure you get this kind of thing all the time, especially from well-read gay bloggers (who are rarer than one might think...), but... well... do want to get a veggie burger at Shake Shack and talk about The Great Bolaño the next time Fosco is in NYC? Fosco will buy.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pictures of 2008: Oz's Cousin's Wedding

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

In September, Fosco and Oz spent a weekend near San Luis Obispo for the wedding of Oz's cousin Zac. We stayed in the coastal resort town of Morro Bay, which features an inexplicable giant domed rock in the center of its harbor (apparently, it's a dormant volcano! Who knew?).

The area around San Luis Obispo has some incredibly lush wine country and Oz's cousin got married on the grounds of the Meridian Vineyards. The ceremony was on a hilltop overlooking the vineyards, a small lake, and the sun setting behind the coastal mountains. Seriously. The reception was held on a large lawn nearby. It was magical. Here is the beginning of the reception, as dusk settles (yes, those are Japanese lanterns):

A romantic evening all around.

Like the shark, the panda has millions of teeth.

Sometimes the world just makes you smile:

Gu Gu the panda has struck again, mauling someone who jumped a barrier to retrieve a child's toy, in his third attack on a visitor at the Beijing zoo.


The 240-pound (110-kilogram) Gu Gu bit the intruder's legs and refused to let go until zookeepers pried his jaws open with tools.


The Beijing News said the latest victim suffered damage to major ligaments and is recovering from surgery.
It's so hard to choose the best part of this story. Is it that the panda clamped his jaws on the victim and wouldn't let go? Is it that the victim has major ligament damage? Is it that this is the panda's third attack on a visitor? Or is it that the vicious panda's name is Gu Gu?

Fosco has been saying for years that pandas are nature's perfect killing machines, but no one has been listening (to be honest, Fosco has mostly been saying this to his stuffed panda, Baby Bamboo). But, in any case, this story is a good opportunity for everyone to learn a bit more about pandas.

Which brings me to the long-canceled MTV show "Sifl and Olly." This was that show with the sock puppets that sometimes showed videos and did comedy skits. In Fosco's opinion, it was one of the funniest shows ever on television, mainly because of its pure random silliness. One of its best recurring jokes was the strange panda-masked man. Fosco hadn't seen these skits in probably ten years, but here they are (just as funny as ever). If you've never seen "Sifl and Olly," do yourself a favor and watch these clips.

The Panda Interview:

The panda has a very lot of mysterious qualities!

The Panda Song:

The pandas are coming.
So hide under your bed.
The pandas are coming.
They'll rip your ass to shreds!

I don't know about you, but I'm drunk on panda mystery.

Decline and Fall

Let me begin by saying clearly and without exaggeration that The New York Times is the record of civilization.

Some of you may find that to be an odd statement; Fosco stands by it. He's not saying the NYT is perfect, nor is he an apologist for its many failures. He generally finds their coverage of things they don't understand to be snide or dismissive. And yes, he recognizes that their sports coverage is really myopic. But despite all of those flaws, there is no other publication in the world that attempts as ambitiously (and mostly succeeds) to tell the story of life in our world. Like I said, the Times is the record of civilization. I just don't see how anyone, even a hermaphroditic skeletal lizard, could maintain otherwise.

And yet, according to an article by Michael Hirschorn in The Atlantic, the NYT is already dead and will be decomposing more quickly than any of us could have expected:

[W]hat if The New York Times goes out of business—like, this May?
Don't laugh. It's actually a serious possibility. More likely, however, is that The Times won't shutter entirely. Rather, Hirschorn lists a number of potential alternatives that will save the paper from complete insolvency. However, none of them will save the paper as we know it. As Hirschorn argues:
Regardless of what happens over the next few months, The Times is destined for significant and traumatic change. At some point soon—sooner than most of us think—the print edition, and with it The Times as we know it, will no longer exist.
Fosco is very upset about this. Really. And not just because the fiance of one of Fosco's favorite people writes for The Times. No, this is something that will have serious consequences for our society. As Hirschorn notes:
The collapse of daily print journalism will mean many things. For those of us old enough to still care about going out on a Sunday morning for our doorstop edition of The Times, it will mean the end of a certain kind of civilized ritual that has defined most of our adult lives. It will also mean the end of a certain kind of quasi-bohemian urban existence for the thousands of smart middle-class writers, journalists, and public intellectuals who have, until now, lived semi-charmed kinds of lives of the mind. And it will seriously damage the press’s ability to serve as a bulwark of democracy. Internet purists may maintain that the Web will throw up a new pro-am class of citizen journalists to fill the void, but for now, at least, there’s no online substitute for institutions that can marshal years of well-developed sourcing and reporting experience—not to mention the resources to, say, send journalists leapfrogging between Mumbai and Islamabad to decode the complexities of the India-Pakistan conflict.
And suppose that The Times does become an online-only concern. It still won't be The Times as any of us know it:
Common estimates suggest that a Web-driven product could support only 20 percent of the current staff; such a drop in personnel would (in the short run) devastate The Times’ news-gathering capacity.


In this scenario, would begin to resemble a bigger, better, and less partisan version of the Huffington Post, which, until someone smarter or more deep-pocketed comes along, is the prototype for the future of journalism: a healthy dose of aggregation, a wide range of contributors, and a growing offering of original reporting.
Now don't get Fosco wrong: he loves The Huffington Post immoderately. But there is no question that a HuffPo-style tabloid/blog hybrid (tablog? blogloid?) is not a substitute for a real newspaper of record. A world without The New York Times will be a world that is a bit less worth living in.

Conyers Announces "Noble Peace Prize" Winner

Fosco noted yesterday that Sanjay Gupta could be a dickish choice for Surgeon General. Today, US Representative John Conyers (D-MI) agrees. Unfortunately, Conyers's letter to that effect wasn't exactly proofread, as you can see here:

Please join me in signing a letter to President-Elect Barack Obama that Dr. Sunjay [sic] Gupta not be nominated for the post of Surgeon General.

I join in opposition with respected Noble [sic] Peace [sic] Prize award wining [sic] economist Paul Krugman, who has very serious concerns with having Dr. Gupta be the nation's Surgeon General.
For those of you who are counting, that's four errors/typos in two sentences. Well-played, Conyers.

While it's funny that the letter misspelled Gupta's first name, Fosco much prefers the clusterfuck of errors around Paul Krugman's recent award. For one thing, the Conyers letter seems to be suggesting that Krugman has been fermenting his prize and bottling it in order to produce a delicious libation that has been enjoyed for millions of years. Even more interesting is that Krugman's Nobel Prize for Economics has been morphed into the (more? less?) prestigious "Noble Peace Prize."

At this rate, it's only a matter of a few weeks until Paul Krugman wins an Oskar. And I have no doubt that his recent guest appearances on Rachel Maddow's show will garner him an Emme. Don't even ask him what he had to do to win his Pee Body.

Pictures of 2008: Remembering Vietnam

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

While Fosco and Oz were in DC for Derek and Maria's wedding, they also got a chance to do some very quick sightseeing. Oz had never been to DC, so the National Mall was a must. Here are pix of two of the Vietnam memorials. Lots of tourists took smiling photos in front of this one, which hardly seems appropriate:

And here is the famous Maya Lin design, looking even more stately and somber after more than twenty-five years:

Oz took both of these pictures and you can tell--he's much better with a camera than is Fosco (for one thing, he doesn't have a tremor).

Literature: Some Prophecies

As Fosco mentioned previously, he's been having a literary love affair with Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666 (lauded by even the semi-literate as the best novel of 2008). Well, Fosco has done some more reading in the Bolaño canon and he's pretty impressed. Fosco recently finished Bolaño's thin novel Amulet, and it's pretty excellent (although a little less temporally conventional than is 2666!). The narrator is the self-proclaimed "Mother of Mexican Poetry" who is trapped in a university bathroom during the military occupation of the UNAM in 1968. During her captivity, the narrator offers a retrospective on the future (and sometimes the distant future). Part of her retrospective takes the form of prophecies about literature in the future. The prophecies are weird, funny, and probably contain lots of in-jokes about twentieth-century Latin American writers (who Fosco knows almost nothing about). Enjoy!

Then I took a deep breath, hesitated, let my mind go blank and finally said: These are my prophecies.

Vladimir Mayakovsky shall come back into fashion around the year 2150. James Joyce shall be reincarnated as a Chinese boy in the year 2124. Thomas Mann shall become a Ecuadorian pharmacist in the year 2101.

For Marcel Proust, a desperate and prolonged period of oblivion shall begin in the year 2033. Ezra Pound shall disappear from certain libraries in the year 2089. Vachel Lindsay shall appear to the masses in the year 2101.

César Vallejo shall be read underground in the year 2045. Jorge Luis Borges shall be read underground in the year 2045. Vicente Huidobro shall appeal to the masses in the year 2101.

Virginia Woolf shall be reincarnated as an Argentinean fiction writer in the year 2076. Louis-Ferdinand Céline shall Purgatory in the year 2094. Paul Eluard shall appeal to the masses in the year 2101.

Metempsychosis. Poetry shall not disappear. Its non-power shall manifest itself in a different form.

Cesare Pavese shall become the patron saint of Seers and Lookers in the year 2034. Pier Paolo Pasolini shall become the patron saint of Escapees in the year 2100. Giorgio Bassani shall emerge from his tomb in the year 2167.

Oliverio Girondo shall come into his own as a children's writer in the year 2099. The complete works of Roberto Arlt shall be adapted for the screen in 2102. The complete works of Adolfo Bioy Casares shall be adapted for the screen in 2105.

Arno Schmidt shall rise from his ashes in the year 2085. Franz Kafka shall once again be read underground throughout Latin America in the year 2101. Witold Gombrowicz shall enjoy great prestige in the environs of the Río de la Plata around the year 2098.

Paul Celan shall rise from his ashes in the year 2113. André Breton shall return through mirrors in the year 2071. Max Jacob shall cease to be read, that is to say his last reader shall die, in the year 2059.

Who shall read Jean-Pierre Duprey in the year 2059? Who shall read Gary Snyder? Who shall read Ilarie Voronca? These are the questions I ask myself.

Who shall read Gilberte Dallas? Who shall read Rodolfo Wilcock? Who shall read Alexandre Unik?

A statue of Nicanor Parra, however, shall stand in a Chilean square in the year 2059. A statue of Octavio Paz shall stand in a Mexican square in the year 2020. A rather small statue of Ernesto Cardenal shall stand in a Nicaraguan square in the year 2018.

But all statues tumble eventually, by divine intervention or the power of dynamite, like the statue of Heine. So let us not place too much trust in statues.
Carson McCullers, however, shall go on being read in the year 2100. Alejandra Pizarnik shall lose her last reader in the year 2100. Alfonsina Storni shall be reincarnated as a cat or a sea-lion, I can't tell which, in the year 2050.

The case of Anton Chekhov shall be slightly different: he shall be reincarnated in the year 2003, in the year 2010, and then in the year 2014. He shall appear once more in the year 2081. And never again after that.

Alice Sheldon shall appear to the masses in the year 2017. Alfonso Reyes shall be killed once and for all in the year 2058, but in fact it shall be Reyes who kills his killers. Marguerite Duras shall live in the nervous system of thousands of women in the year 2035.
If we accept this, that means there is at least one reincarnation of Anton Chekhov currently bopping around in the world somewhere. Anyone seen him (or her, I suppose)?

Also, it's kind of a pity that Fosco will be long dead in the early 2100s. That's going to be an exciting time! Thomas Mann as an Ecuadorian pharmacist. Sweet.

Pictures of 2008: Society Wedding

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

Last June, Fosco and Oz flew to Washington DC for the wedding of Fosco's college roommate Derek Ho to the lovely and talented Maria Glover (read the New York Times wedding announcement here). This was the nicest wedding Fosco has ever seen (black tie for the guests!) and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with most of his college roommates (except this no-show).

The reception was at the exquisite National Museum of Women in the Arts. Here are two photos from the reception:


The best part of the wedding (besides Derek and Maria's beautiful love, of course) was before the ceremony when Fosco and Oz were sitting in the pew at the church and Fosco turned around to find that Supreme Court Justice David Souter (one of the good Justices, btw) had been seated immediately behind him. For most of the rest of the ceremony, Fosco and his former roommate Dr. Steve scammed to get good candid pix of Souter without being too overt about it. Sadly, Fosco's best attempt is really too blurry; however, it's also the best he's got. And so he includes it here.

That's Souter in the foreground, being charmed by the Mother-of-the-Groom. On the right is the gorgeous Dr. Gloria, wife of Dr. Steve. Do you now see how Fosco got this shot? He was pretending to be taking a picture of Steve and Gloria. Pathetic, I know. A college rooming group with more cojones would have just asked Souter if he would be willing to pose with all of them; but then again, Fosco and his college roommates were always a bunch of eunuchs.

Harvard Domination Begins... Now!

Fosco loves sports, but he rarely blogs about it. For one thing, Fosco doesn't really have anything that interesting to say about sports. For another, there are already more sports blogs in existence than any other type of blog (it's true, I've checked). But Fosco cannot pass up this story because his Alma Mater Be Reprazentin!

Sorry about that.

But still--it is kind of big news. On Wednesday night, Harvard's Men's Basketball Team upset No. 17 Boston College, 82-70. (N.B.: ESPN prefers to rank Boston College as No. 24.) And the game was even at BC. This is a landmark win for several reasons:

  1. The scrappy Crimson hoopsters had been pwned by BC previously, having lost 15 of their last 16 games against the Eagles.
  2. In BC's previous game, they had knocked off No. 1 UNC in a surprising upset.
  3. This is Harvard's first win over a ranked team EVER. EVER. Since when? Since EVER.
  4. And the most amazing part of it all? Harvard's leading scorer in the game (with 27) was Jeremy Lin (pictured above). Now Fosco doesn't want to cross too far into the territory of racial stereotyping, but, um... when was the last time you saw an Asian basketball player? (Or, better yet, when have you ever seen an Asian basketball player lead all scoring in an upset of a highly-regarded ranked team?) This guy is hooptastic!
Fosco doesn't know that he's ever been this proud of Harvard sports. Well, at least the sports that people outside of the Ivy League care about (which eliminates squash).

You know what seems appropriate? A singing of the Harvard Fight Song! Join me, will you?
Illegitimum non carborundum;
Domine salvum fac.
Illegitimum non Carborundum;
Domine salvum fac.
Gaudeamus igitur!
Veritas non sequitur?
Illegitimum non carborundum--ipso facto!
Seriously. That's actually the first verse. But maybe we should sing one of the English verses:
Ten thousand men of Harvard want vict'ry today,
For they know that o'er old Eli
Fair Harvard holds sway.
So then we'll conquer old Eli's men,
And when the game ends, we'll sing again:
Ten thousand men of Harvard gained vict'ry today!
If you'd rather hear the music, listen here.

At any rate, Jeremy Lin should be rewarded. May I suggest a coveted audience with former Harvard men's basketball coach (and Lamont University Professor) Amartya Sen?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Catching Up on your Reading: Part III

The last few weeks were the holidays and all, so it's entirely understandable if you fell behind on your reading. Today on Fosco Lives! Fosco will be pointing you toward things you should have read over the holidays but might have missed.

This one is going to be a downer. Fosco's recent interest in the Third World has led him to pay much more attention to stories about contemporary slavery. According to this article in Foreign Policy magazine (an excellent mag, btw), "there are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history." The Foreign Policy article is shocking and begins with an anecdote about how obscenely easy it is to purchase a child slave in Haiti:

Standing in New York City, you are five hours away from being able to negotiate the sale, in broad daylight, of a healthy boy or girl. He or she can be used for anything, though sex and domestic labor are most common. Before you go, let’s be clear on what you are buying. A slave is a human being forced to work through fraud or threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence. Agreed? Good.


If you’re interested in taking your purchase back to the United States, Benavil tells you that he can “arrange” the proper papers to make it look as though you’ve adopted the child.

He offers you a 13-year-old girl.

“That’s a little bit old,” you say.

“I know of another girl who’s 12. Then ones that are 10, 11,” he responds.

The negotiation is finished, and you tell Benavil not to make any moves without further word from you. Here, 600 miles from the United States, and five hours from Manhattan, you have successfully arranged to buy a human being for 50 bucks.
Sickening. Similarly, a recent Huffington Post story explores child maid trafficking from Africa, based on the testimony of a former child maid rescued from slavery in Irvine, California:
Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home. She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family's crystal. She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day. She had no breaks during the day and no days off.
While this particular story has a happy ending for poor Shyima (she gets to go to Disneyland a lot!), the evildoers don't learn their lesson.

I'm sorry to have to recommend these articles, but we have to know these things if we are going to stop them.

Pictures of 2008: Under the Sea!

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

Last summer, Fosco's extended family visited and we all took a trip to the (surprisingly expensive!) Monterey Bay Aquarium. While there, Oz took these great photos. I don't think you're ready for these jellies:

Just call me "Mr. Barnacle Hands!" Yarrr.

One thing I learned at the MBA? Almost one out of every three fish is delicious!

Headlines of the Day

By last night, Fosco had a full day of posts planned for today--and then all kinds of great stories showed up in the news today. There is nothing to do but to condense them all into some kind of "Headlines Digest."

Catching Up on your Reading: Part II

The last few weeks were the holidays and all, so it's entirely understandable if you fell behind on your reading. Today on Fosco Lives! Fosco will be pointing you toward things you should have read over the holidays but might have missed.

Living on the West Coast doesn't allow Fosco to travel to New York City very frequently (at most, once a year). However, he still likes to stay in touch with the NYC restaurant scene (because, when he is in NYC, he likes to eat well). For this reason, Fosco likes to read New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni.

When he got the job in 2004, Bruni may have seemed a strange choice for the job of restaurant critic based on his background as a serious news reporter (covering both Capitol Hill and the Catholic Church). Despite this, Fosco is quite high on Bruni--and has been, ever since Bruni's hilarious review of the steakhouse at the Penthouse Executive Club. Bruni is funny and interesting and an amazingly fluid writer. So you don't want to miss this duo of Bruni pieces from over the holidays: "Wishes for a New Year" and "Same Table Next Year?"

In the "Wishes" piece, Bruni lists the developments he would like to see in the world of fine dining in 2009. Fosco is intrigued by ideas like

I’d like to see less pork belly, only because we’re well beyond some fatty saturation point now, and more lamb belly, because it’s fantastic, too.
And someone of Fosco's heroic carriage can only applaud this idea:
I’d like to see restaurateurs show a little more sense and mercy when it comes to deciding how many seats can be wedged into a given space. While I’m fine with trading away some comfort for a lower price point — that’s the inevitable and understandable name of the game — I’m increasingly noticing seating arrangements that make me gape and laugh.
If only San Francisco's Slanted Door would take this advice.

Bruni's other piece is a roundup of the best new restaurants of 2008 and his list of his favorite new dishes of the year. Some highlights:
MOMOFUKU KO’S FROZEN FOIE GRAS David Chang turned a classic torchon into flakes piled high, like an incongruously fatty and liver-y Sno-Kone, over a brittle of nuts and a sweet wine gelée.


CORTON’S CARAMEL BRIOCHE It’s a dessert (with banana and passion fruit in the mix), a cheese course (thanks to Stilton), a breakfast (in its mimicry of syrupy French toast) and altogether wonderful. [pictured above]
Fosco's mouth is watering something fierce right now. If a reader wants to ship me either of these (on dry ice) via overnight mail, just ask for my address...

Pictures of 2008: Mission Inn

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

In June, Fosco presented a paper at a conference in Riverside, California (you don't want to hear more about that). Oz tagged along to make it a fun vacation. For a hoot, they stayed at the elegant and historic Mission Inn. It's a legitimate SoCal landmark, and not just because it was the site of Richard Nixon's wedding. If you ever stay there, be sure to set aside an entire afternoon to explore the place--it's like a medieval monastery with spiral stairways and secret passages. Here are a few of our favorite pictures from our afternoon of exploration:

Yes, this place is a hotel. Not to mention that there is an absolutely superb restaurant across the street (we heartily recommend Restaurant Omakase for an exceptional meal). The only problem is that this amazing hotel and delicious restaurant are in Riverside, a place you will never need to visit.

Catching Up on your Reading: Part I

The last few weeks were the holidays and all, so it's entirely understandable if you fell behind on your reading. Today on Fosco Lives! Fosco will be pointing you toward things you should have read over the holidays but might have missed.

As far as New Yorker writers go, Patricia Marx always seemed pretty entertaining to Fosco (although it was hard to tell when her only assignments were guides to shopping in NYC and beyond). But in the January 5, 2009 issue, we finally get to see Marx's talent on display in a feature article (of sorts). Marx's piece is about kosher inspectors in China and it is one of the better short pieces I've read in TNY in quite a while: funny, interesting, with an eye for quirky detail.

Here's a particularly enjoyable excerpt, describing the standard first meeting between the inspecting Rabbi and the Chinese factory managers:

The Schmooze: This takes place in the conference room, which is perhaps adorned with a wood-and-brass captain's wheel from a ship. On the wall, there might be a framed certificate for "High Tech Enterprise 2006" or a large painted sign with an adage in English. "Only Faulty Product, No Captious Customer" and "People and Products Working Together" were two that I saw. Among those in attendance could be a plant supervisor, an engineer, an export manager, a sales representative, and a factory-hired translator. There is always a lot of chuckling--about what, I don't think anyone present ever has a clue.
Fosco recommends reading this article in full, but access is only available online for New Yorker subscribers. One alternative, however, is to download the full text of the article in .pdf format from this site (if asked, Fosco will deny all knowledge of how the article could have been posted here. Remember: Fosco is ignorant.)

Also, in writing this post, Fosco came across the coolest thing: a New Yorker reading group that meets in Washington DC! How fun!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pictures of 2008: Please Stay in Vegas

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008. Check out the whole series here.

Last January, Fosco was in Vegas for an academic conference. You certainly see some things of questionable taste in Vegas:

You might not be able to see it, but those pants are desert camouflage. And can you see the sunglasses strap below the mullet? Sadly, Fosco had to follow this troglodyte for an entire block to get this picture.

Joyeux anniversaire!

Even though Fosco is getting to this kind of late, he can't let it pass that today is the birthday of Ste Jeanne d'Arc, born in 1412 in the village of Domrémy in Lorraine. Fosco's favorite representation of Joan of Arc is this 1879 painting by Jules Bastien-Lepage (found in the collection of the Met Museum in NYC and adored by Fosco on his recent visit).

This painting dates from a French revival of interest in Jeanne after the disastrous Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). If you look carefully at the left of the canvas, you can see ghostly shapes of Saint Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret giving Joan her holy charge. Sometimes Fosco wishes we had a historical record of what happened to Joan after that. Oh well.

From the Annals of Racist Cleaning Products

When Fosco bought a Clorox Bleach Pen today, he didn't realize he was purchasing a racially-targeted product. Until he got home and looked a little closer.

Let's zoom in for the detail. See?

Apparently, Fosco will not be allowed to use this item to clean Oz's laundry. Or, maybe Fosco is allowed to use it on Oz's laundry as long as Oz himself doesn't use it. At any rate, there are some complications here.

Fosco's next question, of course, is what type of stain removal item should be used by non-Whites? Does Clorox make such a product? Is such a product equally stain-removing? Any suggestions?

From the Annals of Future Terrorism

Fosco is no expert on French domestic politics (he leaves that to KFR), but he finds this story worrisome. According to British paper The Observer,

The French government fears a wave of extreme left-wing terrorism this year with the possible sabotage of key infrastructure, kidnappings of major business figures or even bomb attacks.
Based on secret documents, The Observer reports that
A report by the French domestic intelligence service talks of "a rebirth of the violent extreme left" across Europe that is likely to be aggravated by the effects of the economic crisis. Other secret documents expose alleged links with activists in Italy, Greece, Germany and the UK. "It has been growing for three or four years now and the violence is getting closer and closer to real terrorism," said Eric Dénécé, director of the French centre of intelligence research and a former Defence Ministry consultant.
Now this report is worrisome for several reasons. One possibility is that this is an attempt by the (relatively) Right-wing Sarkozy Government to create a climate of fear that would allow a power grab (taking a cue from George W. and his cronies across the Atlantic). The other worry is that this report is true--and terrorism (whether Left or Right) is a force of chaos. Our world is only getting scarier.

[The above painting is part of Gerhard Richter's Baader-Meinhof series, reproducing photographs of the 1970's terrorists.]

From the Annals of Future Disasters

They say that fire is one of the biggest causes of earthquake-related destruction. If so, then maybe the San Jose Mercury News has some good news today. A new study suggests that, in the event of a large earthquake along the Calaveras Fault, the Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill could fail. What would this mean?

In the worst case, a complete failure of Anderson Dam could send a wall of water 35 feet high into downtown Morgan Hill within 14 minutes, and eight feet deep into San Jose within three hours, under state emergency scenarios.
An eight foot wall of water in San Jose? Kowbunga (dude)! Unfortunately, the surfing won't be totally primo, as the water will presumably be choked with the corpses of Morgan Hillers. Of course, this occurrence isn't super likely:
How likely is a massive quake on that fault that could threaten the dam's integrity?

In recorded history, there have been no 6.6 or larger magnitude quakes on the Calaveras Fault. But one isn't impossible.

In 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that there is an 11 percent probability of a quake of 6.7 or larger on the Calaveras Fault in the next 30 years, and a 2 percent probability of a 7.0 or larger quake on the fault over the same time.

"If the Calaveras Fault ruptured across multiple segments, you could get an earthquake up to 7.2," said David Oppenheimer, a USGS seismologist in Menlo Park. "I don't think that's likely to occur, but you can't rule it out entirely."
For those of you who enjoy imagining the Bay Area Apocalypse, this should help you out a bit.

Pictures of 2008: Holiday in South Bend

Fosco recently realized that, by only blogging for three months last year, he never got to share tons of pictures with you from the rest of the year. So, for the next week or so, Fosco will offer a series of brief posts with some of his favorite pictures from his adventures in 2008.

The first picture comes from Fosco's January 2008 in South Bend, Indiana (where grammar goes to die):

Hmmm. Let's hope they got this guy and not this guy.

Piracy expelled, commerce restored.

Longtime readers of Fosco Lives! know that Fosco has a soft spot for things piratical and for Robinson Crusoe (it is the first real novel in English, after all...). And here's a story that has some of both!

According to The Telegraph, the extremely rare journal of a British pirate hunter has been recovered. Interestingly enough, this is the same guy who rescued the "real life" inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. The diary

chronicles a three-year round-the world voyage of the swashbuckling privateer Capt Woodes Rogers, who made a fortune pillaging from pirate ships and Spanish galleons.

During that journey, Rogers, who was a friend of the author Daniel Defoe, even stopped off at a remote Pacific island and found castaway Alexander Selkirk, who inspired the character and book Robinson Crusoe. He said he found him "wild-looking" and wearing "goatskins", adding: "He had with him his clothes and bedding, with a firelock, some powder, bullets and tobacco, a hatchet, a knife, a kettle, a Bible and books."

Rogers, who left Britain in 1708, had been tasked with "victimising" pirates targeting his fellow British merchants.


The slogan of his epic voyage, "Piracy expelled, commerce restored", remained the [Bahama] islands' own motto until independence was declared in 1973.
Now that's a good yarn. Harr.

Picture of the Day

That, my friends, is Mars. And it's beautiful.

Read the story here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

From the Annals of Books No One Wants to Read

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